It's Daisy who tells him about the place, in a very Daisy-like way: her curls bouncing around her face with each excited word, her hands moving too fast, and Ivan nodding in the background. He gives it a try.
The place is supposed to be retro but it's kitsch at best. He doesn't understand the need to make it an inn-slash-coffee-shop when it could have simply been a nice little bed and breakfast. Actually, he doesn't understand the need to always make 2-in-1 things. But Daisy usually has good tastes and he really needs a new place, being sick and tired of Starbucks. So he sits, frowning at the large Hawaiian picture on the wall (which goes along with the barista wearing a plastic lei around his neck). Kitsch.
But the coffee is not so bad.
She's here the second time he comes in. He doesn't know what he expected, but freezing with his hand still on the doorknob wasn't an option. She's sitting on the counter, care-free, laughing with the barista from the other day (or at him, he isn't sure). He's momentarily amazed by the vision, by her clear and merry laugh, by the lei she wears around her head instead of her neck, colourful flowers clashing with her dark curly hair. But then the barista (George, he think he remembers him being called like that) turns to greet him and the moment is gone. She smiles at him, sweet and welcoming, and he orders a coffee before choosing a place.
A place at the very back of the room, near the kitchens, as far as possible from the counter.
He comes back.
He is in love with her tea.
He sits at the table by the window, even if the couches look way more comfortable. He doesn't want to take the risk to have a complete stranger sitting next to him. It always ends in a woman flirting with him and he doesn't want that. So instead, he opens his laptop on the table and pretends not to stare at her from the corner of his eyes.
She always sits on the counter, when she is not making drinks and when the manager is not around. She has that habit of popping a coffee bean in her mouth and chewing on it in an adorable way. Sometimes, she forgets about it when she talks, and it ends in something embarrassing for her. She never cares, laughing at her own behaviour.
She amazes him. Nobody is ever that cheerful.
He comes back. Every day, for a month, before he admits it.
He is in love with her.
She draws hearts on the 'i' as she writes his name on a paper cup when he doesn't have time and buys his coffee to go. He likes the way she dwells on the 't' when she says his name, nobody else does that.
He wants to hear his name on her lips over and over again. He wants his name to be the first thing she thinks about in the morning, the last thing her mind wanders on as she falls asleep. He wants her to whisper it, to giggle it, to sing it, to moan it. He wants her to scream his name, wants to makes her screams as loudly as he can and –
He opens his eyes.
He takes his laptop, throws a tip on the table and flies away.
George knows. He sends him all those sad knowing looks when he is not too busy flirting with Nina, the third barista. Mitchell doesn't know if he should panic at the idea or just be relieved that someone understands his pain. He decides to do both and shoots a thankful smile at George before leaving.
He doesn't come back for a whole week.
It doesn't help.
His heart misses a beat when she is obviously so happy to see him again. He sits at the counter, for the first time, and the lack of customers allows them to talk more freely. "Coffee?" she simply asks and she laughs when he answers "Black, like my soul" with a smirk on his lips.
He sips from the cup as she tells him about her family, about working to pay for her studies but dropping out of the university anyway. At some point she makes herself a mug of tea, but doesn't drink it, simply holding it in her hands until it's cold. He tells her about his weird friendship with Ivan and Daisy, and his family back in Ireland, and his homesickness sometimes. She can relate to that, hating Wales and missing Bristol deeply.
The conversation becomes sad and so does she, a little frown on her brow. She turns her head to the door and he hates himself for doing that to her, for not being able to have a nice cheerful conversation with her. So, in the head of the moment, he leans against the counter to kiss her cheek. She turns her head to him at the same moment.
The kiss is too quick to truly appreciate it.
She opens her eyes wide, he laughs it off and apologizes. But all he can think of is reaching for her over the counter, hand on her neck, and snogging her senselessly. No, snog is not the word, he doesn't want that. He wants to kiss her, a cinema kiss, one that will blow her mind on so many different levels.
But he doesn't.
They never talk about the kiss again.
There's this moment in the week, Thursday at two, where it's only him, George, and Annie. He doesn't know why, but George tells him it has always been like that, nobody coming at that moment. Nobody but him, apparently. So they take a break and, one thing leading to another, Mitchell finds himself laughing out loud in front of his laptop with George, watching funny videos of cats without being able to stop. Annie rolls her eyes and mutters something about boys, but her smile never leaves her lips.
He likes those moments. He feels like belonging somewhere, like having true friends. He tries not to think about how sad that statement is.
It's a Wednesday afternoon and Annie is more excited that she has ever been (which is a lot, even by her standards). She looks like a kitten with a ball of wool and can't concentrate on anything. She makes his tea three times before finally having it right and he gives up by asking what is up with her.
"Owen comes back from Saudi today!"
If his heart drops in his chest, if his brain stops working for a second, he ignores it and smiles as she shows him the ring on her fingers he never really cared about. He fakes happiness for her then pretends he has something important to do on his laptop. She nods and finds another customer to annoy with her story of perfect weddings and chocolate cakes. He drowns his thoughts in the tea.
And of course, because things always gets worse at some point, she squeaks when the doors opens and throws herself in the arms of a perfect stranger. At least, a stranger to Mitchell. His nose is ugly and his arm a bit too tight around Annie's waist as he asks her to take the rest of the day off. When she leaves with the bastard, it's like she takes all of Mitchell's happiness with her.
"Irish coffee?" George asks simply, and Mitchell doesn't know if it's been a minute or an hour since he saw her leave.
"Minus the coffee" he answers broodingly and watches the bottle of whiskey appear in front of him.
He is grateful for George being here. Even more so when they start bitching about the bloke. It's useless and immature, but it makes him feel better. Or maybe it's just the alcohol.